Love in the time of Corona – Reconnecting with Comfort Reads
By Jan Johnson, LIS Librarian
Reconnecting. When deciding what to write for this week’s column, I wanted to choose a topic that was light and easy; to write about what has been a comfort to me in an otherwise uncomfortable time. Many of us have had a hard time switching gears, slowing down and focusing on quieting our minds from the chaos going on all around us. Now more than ever, reading has been such a comfort and escape for many. I started sheltering at home by attempting to read a new book I found at the library.
I couldn’t focus. I kept getting lost. My mind drifted and I couldn’t follow the story. Next, I tried a “self-help” type book. Nope. I desperately wanted to get lost in a book; to find comfort and quiet in the pages of a beautifully written story. Like many of us, I wanted to reconnect to a feeling I had in the past of security, bliss, delight, and peace of mind. I decided to go back to an old favorite that I know I love, that I can get lost in, and will help transport me to the rolling meadows of the French countryside.
“Blackberry Wine” by Joanne Harris is the book I chose. It is the second food novel in her Chocolat series, and we are transported back to the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, where writer Jay Mackintosh is suffering from writer’s block. With the discovery of six long lost bottles of wine brewed by his childhood friend “Jackapple Joe,” memories from his youthful summers in a small Yorkshire village haunt and inspire him. Reconnecting his past with his present inability to find inspiration in his writing, Jay finds more of what he lost and how to get back to that sense of security and wonder.
Then I picked up a new title for me, but a story I knew from one of my favorite movies. “Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín. Eilis Lacey leaves her small Irish village and her mother and sister for a new life in Brooklyn. Eilis struggles with leaving her family and adapting to life in America. When she meets Tony, an Italian American boy, her life changes and she begins to thrive in her new life. Eventually, a tragedy occurs in Ireland and forces her to make a decision about whether to stay in her new home or return to her old country. This is a beautifully written story that will invite you on a journey from mid-century Ireland to Brooklyn.
“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson was my next adventure in the time of corona. We may not be able to get on the Appalachian Trail right now, but we can vicariously travel there with the wit of this famous midwestern-born expat. Joining him on the trail is his gloriously out-of-shape buddy, Stephen Katz, and together they set out on the 2100 famous “AT.” History, natural wonders, and a few rather interesting characters they meet on the trail, will entertain you, give you laughs and connect you to the trail.
“Plainsong” by Kent Haruf invites us into the lives of several families in the high plains east of Denver, Colorado. From these separate stories of life in Holt, connections emerge of lives intertwined and beautifully wrapped around each other. Community and the land that cohears them together is the element that endures this story to our own relationships to our friends, our family, and to the land. This classic American novel will give you something to care about, believe in, and learn from.
For me, reconnecting to my idyllic childhood seems to be the ultimate comfort when things get a little chaotic. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis transports me back to a time when my biggest fantasy was finding a magic wardrobe of my own (why did we only have boring closets and not wardrobes?), where I could meet Mr. Tumnus coming around the bend with his packages. I was probably 10 or so when I first discovered Narnia and how amazing it was to get completely lost in another world. I can still see my 10-year-old version of Narnia, Mr. Tumnus, Aslan, and the Stone Table.
Reconnecting with a time in your life when things were more comfortable for you, more secure, and less uncertain, can bring comfort in an uncomfortable time. Many are rediscovering how important it is to reconnect with long lost friends, family, nature, whatever gives comfort. Whether or not you get lost in a new novel or one that you grab when you need to block out the distractions of the world, keep at it. If one story doesn’t take you on an adventure, move on. It’s better to have read and loved than never to have read at all!
Several of the titles mentioned and thousands more are available on Hoopla, Sunflower Library ebooks, and Libby. If you don’t yet have a library card, go to mhklibrary.org and access our selection of online resources.